Andy Murray: ATP Finals progress papers over cracks

Robredo wasn't impressed with Murray's grit and resolve (©GettyImages)

It's almost job done for Andy Murray in his exhausting and determined pursuit to reach the ATP World Tour Finals, a final win over Tommy Robredo in the Valencia Open - his second title in as many weeks - means it would take a mini disaster in this week's Paris Masters to deny the British no.1 of a spot in London. 

It marks a stark contrast from Murray's downbeat attitude at the beginning of the month; facing an unlikely battle to get the season-ending tournament, the 27-year-old claimed the Finals weren't top of his priorities


However, when kicking off his Autumn of discontent with a first title in over a year at the Shenzhen Open, Murray has built up momentum by playing six tournaments in six weeks (the last coming this week in France) to put himself fifth in the Race for London and on the cusp of finishing in one of the eight qualifying spots.

Few can now doubt his stamina, resilience and determination and, therefore, more than a few can take his previous comments about the Finals with a pinch of salt.

One person who would definitely agree with those sentiments is Robredo. The Spaniard has come a cropper against Murray's apparent revival in two instances recently. Their marathon Valencia final almost mirrored a similarly tough battle in Shenzhen.

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Swearing win

Both times Murray saved five match points to go on and lift the two trophies and Robredo was visibly aghast at his opponent's refusal to lose as he 'gave the fingers' to the former world no.3. 

With the maths much simpler now; Murray can secure his berth at the Finals next month with a quarter-final showing, as a minimum, this week in the French capital.

To many it may now appear as though the two-time Grand Slam champion has his mojo back after a stunningly difficult 12 months or so, don't count on it just yet though.

All is well?

Murray's struggles can be categorised by his failure to beat the world's current elite. Before the US Open, for example, he hadn't beaten a single player ranked in the world's top ten in 2014, a run he did end in the last 16 in New York by beating no.10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

So what of his 'resurgence' since Flushing Meadows? 

Although beating him twice, David Ferrer - who hasn't set the world alight this year either - remains the only person in the top ten to be downed by Murray, apart from shock US Open winner Marin Cilic who has spent most the year outside the top bracket. 

Novak Djokovic and Ferrer (they seem to play each other a lot at the moment) have still eased to wins over the Scottish-born star. 

Tougher challenges

Murray can enjoy wins over the lower-ranked stars all he likes in 250 and 500 ranking point events, but what about the 1000s, Grand Slams and even the upcoming Finals. To win these, he must show an ability to beat the best and we simply haven't seen that yet. 

To put it in football terms; does Celtic winning the Scottish League every season in the absence of Rangers mean they're a great team...?

I wouldn't want this article to make me seem like one of the typical anti-Murray doom merchants; as a British tennis fan I would be delighted to see the 2013 Wimbledon winner do well at the O2 Arena, but the hard facts make that feat seem unlikely still.  

That being said, however, if Murray can show the same amazing levels of defiance as seen recently then he has a chance, if, of course, fatigue doesn't catch up. 

The week-long break Murray will get between Paris and London will feel like a lifetime after such an arduous schedule. Maybe his recent prize money glut will afford him some time on the beach, unless his coach Amelie Mauresmo deems it counter-productive for the new found momentum. 

There are so many intriguing questions yet to be answered by the new Andy Murray, thankfully it won't be too long until all is resolved and we can enjoy Christmas and look ahead to the 2015 season. 

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